There is a chance that the fate of the possibly ill-fated proportional representation referendum will rest with Wilkinson and the rest of the BC Liberals.
All the referendum ballots that are going to be counted are now resting safely with the good folks at Elections B.C. It’s expected the results will be an early Christmas present for someone. We just don’t know who, so everything from this point on is conjecture. Conjecture, of course, is a favourite game of journalists, so here goes.
Let’s say British Columbians endorse proportional representation. Let’s say they do so handily … with a 60/40 per cent split. Sixty per cent of the vote is usually considered a landslide, so let’s say it’s a landslide.
That will start the process of making the next election a proportional representation one. The first step is for government to strike an all-party committee to iron out the details i.e. how the mixed member proportional system is going to work if that is the preferred method etc. Plus the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission will have to get to work drawing new electoral boundaries. Lots of work has to be done.
But there is a wild card in the mix that no one saw coming just a few short months ago when we embarked on this process. His name is Darryl Plecas.
Make no mistake about it, heads will roll and careers will be dashed before the saga involving Plecas’ removal of the Clerk of the Privy Council and Sgt. At Arms is over. The only question is whose. Judging by Plecas’ meltdown at a legislative committee meeting last week, it may be the Speaker’s.
The Liberals, of course, could care less about the police investigation into the activities of the Clerk and the Sgt. At Arms, and have their sights set on Plecas.
If Plecas is forced to resign as Speaker of House and/or MLA, as he has suggested he will do if he’s not vindicated, the minority NDP government will be ripe for toppling.
So back to our conjecture. Let’s say the referendum passes handily, Plecas implodes, and the government falls, which could happen as early as February or March. The subsequent election would have to be held using the current first-past-the-post system simply because the proportional representation system would not be in place by then.
Let’s say the Liberals win that election and form a majority government. What will Andrew Wilkinson do with proportional representation? Unlike the Gordon Campbell Liberals who were open to the idea of proportional representation, the Andrew Wilkinson Liberals are vehemently opposed to it.
Will Andrew Wilkinson and the Liberals toss aside the wishes of the electorate and toss out proportional representation if they have the chance? Wilkinson stated the referendum needed 40 per cent voter turnout to be legitimate, although no one knows how he came up with this figure other than he probably figured we wouldn’t get there. We did. At last count voter turnout is just over 41 per cent.
So, by Wilkinson’s standard, the results are legitimate. In addition, Premier John Horgan and the NDP aren’t dumb. They made the referendum binding. That means Wilkinson, should he gain power, can’t simply ignore the results.
A Liberal government, or any government wishing to dismiss the referendum, would have to enact legislation to counteract the explicit direction of the people of the province. To not do so, would leave the province open to a legal challenge that it would surely lose because it would be acting contrary to its own legislation.
So what will Wilkinson do? He has already suggested he might just ignore the results.
However, it’s clear he and the Liberals are first and foremost going to try and bring the NDP government down. After all, he can’t ignore us until he’s premier.